The Beoplay EQ from Bang & Olufsen is an exceptional pair of wireless earbuds from a master
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The The Beoplay EQ from Bang & Olufsen is an exceptional pair of wireless earbuds from a master
In this Bang & Olufsen EQ review we take a look at the first noise-cancelling in-ear true wireless headphones from the Danish audio favorites. The EQ is expensive and high quality, just as you would expect from the brand that is almost as famous for its premium designs as it is for its decades of audio quality.
The B&O Beoplay EQ comes right up to par with the phenomenal Bowers & Wilkins PI7 or Master & Dynamic MW08 as some of the best wireless earbuds when it comes to sound.
As you will read in this review, they stand up with the best when it comes to audio quality, but there are a few quirks in terms of fit and usability that mean they fall slightly behind the best of the very best buds for me, and if noise cancellation is a focus their implementation is a bit behind the likes of the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Bose QuietComfort Buds that surpass our top guide to the best noise canceling earbuds.
The balance they strike between audiophile sound quality, strong level of noise cancellation and uncluttered design is really impressive, and for that reason they might be the best buy for you, as long as you’re happy paying the premium price. Speaking of which…
But that’s what B&O is, so compared to the direct competition, the price isn’t out of line. While most people will be more than happy with what you can get for £100/$100 less, there is a definite step to take up in sound quality of the very best models.
The EQ is available in ‘Black Anthracite’ or ‘Sand Gold’ colours, which are the same price (not always the case with different B&O color options).
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EQ review, headphones in their case, with the lid open, on a wooden table
The big feature in the EQ – unlike the general audio quality – is the adaptive noise cancellation, which uses six built-in microphones to listen in to the area around you and muffle the sounds so you can hear your music more clearly. I’ll talk more about the effectiveness of the ANC in the sound quality section below.
There’s also a Transparency mode, which lets in outside sounds and mixes them with the music so you can hear what’s going on around you. This is quite effective, although it makes outside noises less prominent and clear than the equivalent mode in AirPods Pro, and there’s no way to adjust the audio throughput levels to make it pass more if you want. I think it’s effective, but if I had control I’d make it just a little more transparent.
On the outside of the earbuds are touch panels, with which you can operate things. You can switch between noise reduction, Transparency mode and rotate it features turn it off by tapping the touch panel on the left earpiece, although the sounds that are supposed to indicate which mode you’re in are undecipherable to me. They just don’t stick in my memory – too short and not indicative enough. And there’s no way to tell which mode you’re in with B&O’s app or anything like that. The only way I could know for sure was to scroll until I knew I was in Transparency, then I knew another tap would turn off ANC, then another tap would turn it back on.
Tapping on the right will give you play/pause controls. Another unusual one feature here is you can also adjust the volume by tap and hold – left for down, right for up. I have mixed feelings about this: on the one hand, it’s a nice option to have that wireless earbuds don’t often offer; on the other hand, it feels a bit imprecise and clunky to use.
You tap and hold, but there’s no indication the change is happening – they just start shifting up or down after a moment. How long should you hold? How soon will it start? How fast will it rise? You don’t really know, and if your music falls asleep the moment you try it, it’s easy to overshoot and go too hard, then struggle to get back to the level you want with precision. Some sort of indicator sound would go a long way here (it’s the same for play/pause, which doesn’t provide audio confirmation). While it’s implemented imperfectly, it’s certainly nice to have the option.
Overall, I’m not a big fan of the touch controls here. They have the same problem as many sensitive earplugs: that it’s not very pleasant to push headphones deeper into your ear. My favorite earbuds for control are AirPods Pro with their weird but effective squeeze sticks and Beats Studio Buds, which use physical buttons on the outside. In either case, using the controls does not affect comfort or fit as the pressure is either absorbed or redistributed elsewhere.
The actual sound is provided by a 6.88mm driver new to the EQ, and wireless streaming is possible with Bluetooth 5.2, including support for aptX Adaptive for high-quality streaming, as well as AAC and SBC Bluetooth standards.
As usual with its app-linked products, B&O allows you to fine-tune the sound profile within the app, using some sort of graph to optionally boost or cut highs and lows. Yes, the EQ has an EQ.
The buttons battery is said to last 6.5 hours with ANC on, or 7.5 hours with off. I certainly haven’t had any issues with it’s longevity. The combined buttons and housing promise a total of 20 hours of listening pleasure, which is quite typical.
That battery life is better than the B&W PI7, but not as good as the Master & Dynamic MW08’s ridiculous 10-hour endurance.
You can charge the case via USB-C or Qi wireless charging – B&O says it basically takes the same amount of time to fully charge, although the quick charge (20 minutes for 2 hours of use) is best done with a cable.
They stick out quite far from the ear, but don’t look ridiculous because of that. From the front they are obviously thick, but they look good. They also look good from the side. But there’s an angle between the front and the side where their expanding, slightly mushroom-like shape is most visible, and that’s where they look a little on the crazy side.
However, absolutely no more goofy than any of the competition. I tested the ‘Sand’ pair and they look nice and subtle against my pale skin – and I prefer the overall look over the spherical shape of the Sony WF-1000XM4, for example, or the ‘Bluetooth headset chic ‘ of the Bose QuietComfort Buttons.
Wrap up The Beoplay EQ from Bang & Olufsen is an exceptional pair of wireless earbuds from a master
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